The ability to close out games has become an area of concern for the UCSB men’s basketball team as the Gauchos finished this weekend with a 1-1 mark. UCSB defeated UC Riverside Thursday in overtime despite giving up a 17-point second half lead before falling Saturday night to Cal State Fullerton in a failed comeback attempt.
Santa Barbara defeated Riverside 68-65 on Thursday and fell to Fullerton 74-72 in a televised game Saturday night, bringing its record to 12-6 overall and 3-2 in the Big West. Saturday’s loss snapped a three-game winning streak for the Gauchos, placing them in a three-way tie for third place in the conference standings.
In a game televised on Fox Sports Prime Ticket, UCSB came out flat on Saturday, trailing by as many as 12 points in the second half. The Gauchos rallied, however, primarily behind the play of junior center Alan Williams. Big Al recorded 16 of his 26 points in the second half, adding along nine rebounds, two steals and two blocks in the game.
With 2:20 remaining in the contest, UCSB took its first and only lead of the game at 70-68 when Big Al converted a three-point play. Fullerton senior guard Michael Williams then sank a three-pointer with 32 seconds remaining to give the Titans a 71-70 lead.
Senior guard Kyle Boswell’s three-point attempt with 23 seconds remaining raddled in and out twice before bouncing out and into Fullerton’s possession. Santa Barbara was forced to foul and Fullerton made the first of two free throws before missing the second.
Off the missed free throw, the Gauchos pushed the ball up the court to freshman guard Eric Childress who missed a contested layup with 12 seconds remaining. UCSB was once again forced to foul, leading to two Titan free throws that put the game out of reach for the Gauchos. Fullerton improved to 7-12 overall and 2-3 in the Big West with the victory.
Junior guard Alex Harris led the Titans with 22 points, while Michael Williams added 19 points, six rebounds and eight assists in a game-high 38 minutes of play. Fullerton shot 45 percent from beyond the arc with Harris and Williams converting four three-point field goals apiece.
Sophomore guard Michael Bryson added 16 points and five rebounds for UCSB, while junior guard Zalmico Harmon tallied eight points and 10 assists without committing a turnover. Boswell added 11 points off the bench, finishing the game 3-7 in three-point shooting.
While UCSB came out slow in the first half on Saturday, Thursday’s contest against Riverside was the exact opposite. The Gauchos rushed out to an 11-point halftime lead, building that margin to 17 points within the first two minutes of the second half.
Riverside slowly chipped away at the lead, however, using two separate 8-0 runs to tie the game at 50 with 8:23 remaining in the game. UCSB built a 60-54 lead with just over two minutes remaining, but the Highlanders rallied once again, closing the half on a 6-0 run.
Sophomore forward Taylor Johns was fouled with five seconds remaining and his Riverside team trailing 60-59. With a chance to give the Highlanders a late-game lead, Johns made the first free throw but missed the second, avoiding what could have been an epic collapse for UCSB.
In the overtime period, six of the eight points UCSB scored came by the way of free throws. Bryson scored the final four points of the game for Santa Barbara, an impressive feat considering he had all of one point scored in regulation.
With a chance to tie the game, Riverside freshman guard Sam Finley missed a three-point jumper with one second remaining to secure the 68-65 win for UCSB.
Big Al led UCSB with 21 points and seven rebounds, while Harmon and sophomore forward Mitch Brewe added 11 points. Boswell added 10 points off the bench for the Gauchos.
Senior forward Chris Patton led Riverside with 23 points behind an impressive 10-13 night shooting. Finley added 20 points and Johns pitched in with nine points and 11 rebounds for the Highlanders. Including a Saturday victory over Cal Poly, Riverside now holds a 7-13 record and a 2-4 mark in the Big West.
UCSB next faces UC Irvine Thursday at the Thunderdome.
A version of this article appeared on page 4 of January 27, 2013′s print edition of The Daily Nexus.
Photo by Peter Vandenbelt of The Daily Nexus.